Sustainability not a priority for students
By Rebecca Knight

Published: June 8 2008 21:00 | Last updated: June 8 2008 21:00

For many MBA students a “green” personal life is more important than working for a company with environmentally friendly policies ”“ at least for now.

A survey of nearly 400 MBA students shows that the downturn in the economy has made a potential employer’s record on sustainability less of a priority. The survey, conducted at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, shows where the personal values of today’s MBA students intersect with their professional aspirations.

Only about a quarter of respondents at the US school say they have examined a potential employer’s environmental record; about 60 per cent say they were more concerned with securing a position.

At US business schools, the on-campus recruiting scene in financial services ”“ typically the biggest consumer of newly minted MBAs ”“ is on the verge of slumping. Preliminary figures show the number of job offers is down slightly from the year before, as is the number of recruiters.

David Schmittlein, dean of Sloan, is pragmatic: “I remember the frothy days of 1998 and 1999. Easier econ­omic times bring with them a naivety as to whether there are trade-offs to make.”

Prof Schmittlein says many students’ long-term career plans involve some aspect of sustainability. “Students are quite right to want to understand sustainability with respect to business opportunity and business risk.”

Garrett Dodge, a Sloan student looking for work in consumer technology or innovation, says: “For the first job out of school, it’s not as much of a priority. We’re all looking for jobs that provide a good experience and a good salary. At the same time, the brand value of where we start our careers is very important.”

More than 75 per cent of respondents state that a company’s environmental record and commitment to sustainable business practices is likely to be a greater factor in their employment considerations once they are more established in their careers.

“Their short-term goal may be to get a job at a top-name firm but their long-term goal is to take what they learnt and start company X,” says Stacy Blackman, who runs a Los Angeles MBA admissions consulting company.

“After 9/11, people wanted to talk about jobs in security; after Enron, it was about ethical practices. Today people are talking about going green.”

Many students say they are likely to incorporate green principles in their daily lives simply because it is easier to make changes. More than half of the students surveyed, for instance, say they have switched brands in the past six months for a product that contains all natural ingredients.

The survey found 93 per cent of students feel the sustainability movement creates strong opportunities. About half plan to start their own businesses.


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